Katie McQuestion, a 26-year-old radiology technician from Kenosha, Wisconsin, got a flu shot to comply with hospital policy and had no underlying medical conditions, but she caught the flu and developed a serious complication from it: sepsis. She died on Jan. 2.
"She was the picture of health," her mother told ABC News, adding that McQuestion was married in September. "No 29-year-old should have to bury his wife."
McQuestion complained she didn't feel well on a mother-daughter trip to a dress shop on Dec. 29, said her mother, who asked not to be named. The following day, McQuestion was sent home sick from work. Her mother said she picked up a prescription for her on New Year's Eve.
About 12 hours later, the hospital called McQuestion's parents and told them she had taken a turn for the worse.
Her family was in shock, her mother said.
"To go from not feeling good to dying is just -- there's no words," her mother said. "It just breaks my heart. She was such a great kid."
"Usually pneumonia infection is confined to the lungs, but on occasion, it can be so bad that the bacteria leave the lungs and get into the blood stream," Schaffner said.
Pneumonia and flu can often seem to blend together, but Schaffner said that if you have shortness of breath, are coughing up yellow or green mucus, or mucus tinged with blood, it could be pneumonia. He recommended going to the doctor for an antiviral medication as soon as you realize you have the flu in the hopes of preventing a more severe illness and flu complications. He also advised staying hydrated and sitting up in bed to take deep breaths whenever possible.
McQuestion's family said they hope sharing her story will help prevent other deaths from flu-related sepsis.
"If this can help just one family avoid this, then it's not in vain," McQuestion's mother said. "She loved her job. She was so happy. It's just heartbreaking to know what could have been for her."